New $15.9M program aimed at increasing workforce participation rate
FRANKFORT, Ky. (December 28, 2016) – Gov. Matt Bevin has signed an executive order establishing the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship (WRKS) Program, designed to increase the Commonwealth’s current low labor participation rate by expanding the skilled competitive workforce necessary to attract new businesses to the state.
Beginning with the 2017-18 academic year, the new program allocates up to $15.9 million in financial aid for eligible Kentuckians who have not yet earned at least an associate’s degree.
“This scholarship offers a transformative opportunity for the Commonwealth,” said Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner. “It empowers students and adults to attain vital skills and education, while simultaneously strengthening our workforce participation rate and making Kentucky the ideal location for businesses.”
Participants can earn an industry-recognized certificate, credential, or diploma in one of Kentucky’s top five high-demand workforce sectors — healthcare, advanced manufacturing, transportation/logistics, business services/information technology, and construction/trades.
The new program will be administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA), and eligible individuals can access WRKS funding until they reach one of the following benchmarks — attainment of an associate’s degree, receipt of the scholarship for four semesters, or utilization of the scholarship for 32 credit hours.
Scholarship recipients are required to earn a minimum 2.0 grade point average for each academic term they receive WRKS assistance. Eligible postsecondary institutions include Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) schools, four-year state public universities, and (Council on Postsecondary Education) licensed and (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) accredited private colleges and universities in the Commonwealth.
“Kentucky’s workforce participation rate ranks 47th nationally,” said Heiner. “Businesses across the state are in near crisis with their inability to fill great jobs; and this difficulty if left unaddressed will result in a slowing of business expansion at the exact time we need a robust economy to help solve the financial challenges facing the Commonwealth.”
“This innovative scholarship program is focused on equipping individuals of all ages for the vast number of new economy jobs that are available today, and we believe that it will provide a quick return for thousands of Kentuckians seeking a better income and more fulfilling career,” Heiner said.
“We are excited about the expanded opportunities the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship will provide for students and families,” said Dr. Carl Rollins, executive director of KHEAA. “The greatest benefit of this program is that it will reduce the need for Kentuckians to borrow student loans to cover their cost of education.”
To apply, individuals must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the WRKS application. The FAFSA form is available now at www.fafsa.gov. The WRKS application will be available this spring at www.kheaa.com.
For more information about the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship, please visit www.kheaa.com or call 1-800-928-8926.